Witness Men: True Stories of God at Work in Papua, Indonesia by Rebecca Davis
This new book in the Hidden Heroes series for CF4K is a remarkable little book on missionaries and their work in Indonesia. The author, Rebecca Davis culls together in this book, accounts of missionary activity in the western half of New Guinea, at one point called Dutch New Guinea. The book chronicles not one missionary but a whole host of missionaries aimed at proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to these remote and many times hostile tribes. In turn, what you find as you read this book is that the gospel going to Dutch New Guinea takes a whole host of people, who do all kinds of things from building air landing strips, to offering the tribes their services, to learning different languages in order that these witness men might tell of the great work of God.
We get a picture of God’s general revelation in ch. 2 of the book where Rebecca relates simultaneously the work of missionaries preparing for their mission work through language school alongside a Kimyal boy who is seeking out a different life than a witch doctor. Rebecaa writes, “He had never been taught about any sort of God at all, but he knew there must be something more than the spirit world his witch doctor father taught him…’There must be a greater Spirit, and one day I’ll learn about Him. There must be a Spirit who loves’ (21). The kind of life where evil and good spirits rage against one another was not the life for this little boy, for he realized that something greater was out there. At every point in the relaying of these missionary stories, the tribes have an inkling about a Greater Spirit or Deity but not the full word on it. Yet, this part of the story is important in that it speaks to God’s creative care in designing people with an inbuilt conscience that seeks out for God even in the midst of other belief systems.
The real beauty of these stories comes when a witness man, a man of the Damals comes to believe in Jesus Christ and this experience changes everything. Rebecca writes, “But Nogom, the chief’s son, the translator who listened and spoke the words of the gospel day after day, was the one who first came to Christ. When he gave his steel axe to a man from whom he had stolen a pig, everyone in the valley knew Christianity had changed him” (31). The concrete expression of leaving behind old ways by not pillaging and committing violent acts leads the community to believe that a radical change has taken place in Nogom’s life. The point I believe Rebecca is trying to make is that as the gospel roots itself in the people themselves, and not necessarily outsiders, this impact gives way for whole tribes to believe in the Savior. This truth can be seen almost in any continent and in many ministry contexts from Campus Crusade for Christ to Presbyterian church plants in foreign countries. Yet, what Rebecca’s telling also indicates is that the work of missionaries in Dutch New Guinea was tireless and challenging, but one changed believer can upset the whole fabric of a community for Christ.
The chapter at the end of the book entitled Bible Party was a great witness to the hard work of people desiring the Scriptures to reach the nations. Rebecca writes, “Then came the airplane with the New Testaments. People were so excited that they began to cry and sing and yell. God’s Word was finally coming to them in their own language” (130-131)! The Kimyal people and Pastor Siud rejoiced at the sight of God’s Word in the language of the Kimyals. Great rejoicing took place here as former missionaries gathered for this momentous event.
These stories give great encouragement to believers as they journey down the road of Christian faith. This book also was a real account of the struggles and victories of life as a missionary. I hope many will be encouraged as a result of this fine book.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and CFK4 for the copy of this book in exchange for review.